Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slimming down progress


10/15/10 measurements:
Right Upper Arm - 14"
Waist - 42"
Hips - 45"
Right Thigh - 26"

1/18/11 measurements
Right Upper Arm - 13.25" (-.75)
Waist - 41" (-1")
Hips - 44.25" (-.75")
Right Thigh - 25" (-1")

Thank you Weight Watchers! Still working towards my 5% goal, but so far so good! :D

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Retired: 3rd Lieutenant Nigel Wilcox

Tonight my friend Jonathan ran the finale game for Man of War III, a Napoleonic-era British Navy role-playing game. It was the culmination of a ten-year arc of three campaigns (Man of War I, II and III), tying up loose story ends and officially retiring the game. It was a very enjoyable game, especially because Jonathan always did a lot of research into historical events, ships, military, etc., to set the tone for the game (truth be told most of the players are history buffs anyhow).

There were ship battles, espionage, trading, diplomacy, blowing up those darn Frenchies and more…

Friday, January 14, 2011

And I'll be going with... the Samsung Focus.

Well, after enough mulling it over, I'll be going with the Samsung Focus.

Just to recap my bigger reasons why:
  • The only thing I’m really worried about the Quantum is the slider keyboard. I’ve never had a phone with one before, so I’m worried about wear and tear. The Focus is one piece – no mechanical mechanisms to go awry.
  • The Focus’ screen is nicer than the Quantum’s, and is a bit larger to boot. That would be easier on the eyes.
  • The Focus has been called the best WP7 phone available for AT&T right now, and I’ve seen one article call it the second best phone for AT&T after the iPhone.
My worries over the physical keyboard ended up being a deal breaker. Given my Centro's performance I fully expect the Focus to last more than my two-year obligation (which is more than I can say for the normal cheapy, "free with contract" phones I used to get). But the Centro is very simple, mechanically, unlike the LG Quantum. That slider is just one more thing that can go wrong in my opinion, and frequent use would only make it worse.

Which is a pity, since it seems that LG has a very nice speech-to-text app for their phone. Won't work with Word or Excel from what I can tell, so its not too big a loss for me.

Because the Samsung Focus can have its storage expanded, I'll be picking up a 16g micro-SDHC card to go along with it. That'll bump the storage up to a comfortable size. More than enough space for my files, music, etc. What's quite nice is I just found an app that might be ideal for audio-books. That'll be good, especially if/when Kobo gets around to making an eReader for WP7 (I buy my eBooks from Borders).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Choosing my next cell/smart-phone

Well, its been a few months of thinking and pondering, but I’ve finally made up my mind about what kind of phone to get next. I have to admit, the market is full of options that would be great upgrades from my Palm Centro; the iPhone, Android, the Palm Pre, etc. So, come March, I’ll be getting a Windows Phone 7… er… phone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Easy tip/share calculator

At work we’ll sometimes go out to eat for birthdays, splitting the check at the end. At the end of the meal we have to go through two steps; figuring out the tip, then everyone’s share (joys of going dutch). Sometimes everyone fends for themselves, but the birthday boy/girl gets their meal for free, with the rest of us splitting the bill.

a b c d
1 Bill Tip % Amount Total
2 format as $ format as % =a2*b2 =a2+c2
4 # of people $ per
5 1 =d2/a5

Its easy enough. Things are laid out the way they are so its easy enough to adjust. You put in your bill into a2, the percentage you want to tip into b2, and the rest gets figured out for you. If you’re splitting something, change the 1 in a5 to however many people you’re splitting by.

For instance, if me and two friends of mine went to eat, with the meal costing $24 and is wanting to tip 30%?

a b c d
1 Bill Tip % Amount Total
2 $24.00 30 $7.20 $31.20
4 # of people $ per
5 3 $10.40

Easy enough! Again, its one of those things I’ve seen apps for but if you’ve got a spreadsheet on your smartphone? No need to buy or download one (important if you don’t have a data plan currently!). And, before you say that nobody has a smartphone without a data plan, keep in mind I was without one for almost two years, plus there are people who have had to turn off the data service to save money! A smart phone can be very useful, even without the data plan!

Plus, there is the iPod Touch to consider, too! There are a few spreadsheet apps available in the app store, after all :)

The more I mess with spreadsheets, the more I find how useful they are. The fact you can carry one around with you in your pocket, as opposed to needing a laptop or desktop, means you’re not chained to your desk. And, ultimately, that is what a smartphone is all about.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Easy debit card balance tracker.

I had started looking for a checkbook program (not seriously) for my phone to use for my debit card. My Palm Centro is an older, now discontinued, entry-level smart phone, so a lot of folks have moved on, developer-wise.
In a "why didn't I think of this before?" moment, I fired up my Centro's spreadsheet (provided by DataViz’s Docs to Go) and whipped up a quick and dirty way to keep track of my expenditures!

  a b c
1 =sum(b:d)    

Its basically a one-cell formula, usable for any spreadsheet. Cell a1 gets the equation to show the current balance, with columns b, c and d getting the number entries (deposits are positive, purchases are negatives). A1’s result is bolded to help it stand apart from everything else.

  a b c
1 37.77 50.53  
2   -4.67  
3   -8.09  

So, while there is room to improve it? My current balance is there, all quick and convenient like! Its no substitute for good tracking of your money, but for me its better than trying to keep a checkbook registrar with me.

Also, when I was thinking about it, it’s a good example of something that’s useful in a real-life way so I won’t have to buy an app for it. While you can say they’re cheap, I won’t have to try a bunch, deal with poor ones, etc. What’s also nice is this one little formula is portable, so it’ll make the jump when I upgrade from my Centro to a Windows Phone 7 smartphone in March. Something that an app can’t do.

Next lunch-break project? And spreadsheet that calculates tip at a restaurant, plus figuring out shares for splitting a check.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pondering my strategy with money.

"The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable." - Sun Tzu

While not incredibly well-read or knowledgeable, I think I'm starting to find finances more interesting now than I have ever before. Maybe I'm at "that" phase in life. Certainly, it started when I finally got tired of making my money and having nothing to really show for it. Thanks to that I went through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, which has probably been the best $92 I've spent on myself in a long time.

I've tried reading Richard Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad, although have never made it through the thing even after trying for close to a decade. The idea of debt as a tool seems dangerous to me - a bit worrisome. But, I can see his points, and there is the whole risk/reward aspect to consider. That aside, though, there's a definite self-reliance he spoke of; look for opportunities. Be creative. Go out and get it instead of being complacent and satisfied. Create your own security.

I have started reading The Millionaire Next Door, and its definitely got me thinking. Some of the terms aren't familiar to me (unrealized income? what is that?), but last night's chapter (Frugal Frugal Frugal) resonated. A lot of people trade in financial security for a high-consumption lifestyle, but lament they can't get ahead, that they're not financially secure. That's been me for my adult life. But, a majority of the millionaires they studied? Frugal. They trade a high-consumption lifestyle for financial security. They define wealth a bit differently - not so much how much you earn so much as how much you keep - but that's reassuring in a way.

More achievable, even.

Looking at this, I'm beginning to wonder how I should plan my future. Thanks to Dave Ramsey, I've been able to lay some groundwork, a foundation for myself, financially. Now, I'm still adjusting to it, trying not to fall into old, bad habits. Still, when I get paid my money (albeit broadly) goes where I tell it to. Its elementary, basic, but is good for now. In the future (likely this year), I'll have to get some things done with greater thought and granularity.

Looking at my reactions, its clear I favor "defensive" financial strategies. Defensive money handling is basically protecting what you get. A budget is the simplest, most basic tool here. This is well and good, as I'v gotten to the opinion that you can out-earn your negligence for only so long. As such, I will definitely continue to work on developing, refining and furthering myself in this area.

But that's only half the equation.

"Offensive" strategies earn you money. This can be as simple as getting a job. But one thing that's I've heard repeatedly, in various forms, is don't put all you eggs in one basket. So, what happens if I lose my job? Right now my day job is my only "offense." Personality wise I seem to favor defense. Can I think of more ways to make money (including getting another, part-time, job)? Yes. Have I done any of them yet? Err... nope.

Its something I want to do this year - figure out what I would actually do to bring in more money. I have to admit its a little murky right now... one thing I've learned is that I do value my free time. To earn more requires time and effort that I've been terribly reluctant to part with. But, if one was to go by Brain Tracy's 40+ rule, right now I'm just treading water (working 40 hours/week). If I want to succeed, to advance? I need to work more than that.

And so... I ponder.